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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Losing One's Reality Check

I have written the past few columns about Hollywood. Given that I watched 3 non-kid movies in the past year, I cannot be considered a "movie-goer". However, I would see maybe one movie a month when I was "pre-kids" and have a big interest in them in a nolstagic way.

Peggy Noonan wrote a very deep column on what for many of us has become a trivial subject. She tries to explain what has happened to Hollywood, its actors and the public's blase reaction to the Oscars spectacle. She discusses that despite its 9% viewership drop-off, there were still 39 million viewers. That is a lot of people. The actors are the most beautiful looking people we have. That makes them "interesting" to watch (like a train wreck?).

The problem is they are very out of touch with America. It is not just political.

She writes:

The Clooney generation in Hollywood is not writing and directing movies about life as if they've experienced it, with all its mysteries and complexity and variety. In an odd way they haven't experienced life; they've experienced media. Their films seem more an elaboration and meditation on media than an elaboration and meditation on life. This is how he could take such an unnuanced, unsophisticated, unknowing gloss on the 1950s and the McCarthy era. He just absorbed media about it. And that media itself came from certain assumptions and understandings, and myths.

Most Americans aren't leading media, they're leading lives.


Think of the complete disaster that Liz Taylor has been her whole life. While a brilliant actress (just watch her in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf), her 5 marriages (or more, I lost count at that menorah salesman a few years back) may not make her the Barry Bonds of nuptials, and plenty of shoe salesmen have had more than 3 marriages (BTW should 3 be the legal maximum?), does this not point to a person lacking self-knowledge, appreciation of the meaning of vows or just plain inability to judge others as prospective spouses.

Hollywood lifestyle aside, and can we not appreciate the massive gossip industry it spawns, the actors fall into the same category as other celebrities who have lost sight of humanity. We see professional athletes and singers whose popularity is waning after each arrest or public statement about the difficulty of living on $5 million per year. When celebrities have "people" to handle all mundane activities, they cannot understand what makes their fans tick. Think of billionaire NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg's empathy for commuters who try to find a parking space or those remaining cigarette smokers. Why would he have empathy for them? The same attitude to the public is seen with multi-termed politicians who lose sight of the needs of the public they claim to be serving. Academics holed away in universities are particularly out of touch.

The cocoons in which people reside do not allow them to relate to their public. And in the free market, when you lose your buyers for whatever reason, you do not quickly win them back. When you lose sight of the buyer's wants, you lose sales. Box office receipts and Oscar show Nielsens are a leading indicator of a trend.

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